Shot using a 1970s wind-up Bolex camera and on 16mm film, Mark Jenkin’s Bait is somewhat of a glorious visual anomaly in a world dominated by big budget blockbuster action thrillers and endless superhero franchises.
Set within a small community of an undisclosed Cornish fishing village (the shoot itself took place in Charlestown and Penzance), Bait presents an eerily enchanting expressionist aesthetic which owes a lot to the early films of French cinema pioneer Jean Epstein (The Fall of The House of Usher) or even Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc).
Bait tells the story of Martin Ward (played brilliantly by comedian Edward Rowe aka Kernow King), a gruff and taciturn cove fisherman who no longer has a boat at his disposition to fulfil a job he loves. His brother Steven (Giles King) has turned their father’s vessel into a pleasure boat for tourists, and the two have been at loggerheads ever since.
Martin soon becomes locked in an increasingly volatile war of words with “down from London” couple Sandra and Tim (Mary Woodvine and Simon Shepherd). The couple’s newly refurbished cottage once belonged to Martin’s family and has since been turned into a holiday accommodation for tourists. When a dispute over a parking space turns violent, both sides must find common ground, but things take a turn for the worse when the quarrel ends in tragedy for a younger member of the community.
With extreme close-ups and a haunting melodramatic tone, Jenkin has managed to create a world that is as mesmerising as it is unsettling. Using non-diagetic sound and a dialogued that has been painstakingly overdubbed in post-production, the director has gone above and beyond what is expected from him to give us a film that is sure to resonate with wider audiences and celluloid junkies alike. And while its subject matter in undoubtedly a serious one, Jenkin’s screenplay is not averse to the odd moment of dark humour throughout.
This is a brilliantly original, intriguing and deeply engaging story which is more than just an experiment. It is a film that knows its subject inside out and isn’t afraid to show it. A truly glorious endeavour.
Bait is in cinemas UK-wide including BFI Southbank from Friday 30th of August